For professional gamer Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, exactly one thing is at stake at this weekend’s Genesis 8 Super Smash Bros. tournament.
“Pride,” SFAT says. “When it comes to winning, we want to win it for pride.”
All weekend in San Jose, thousands of players will put their competitive pride on the line. The storylines that play out will write esports history.
Genesis is one of the nation’s most prestigious tournaments for competitive fighting games, known especially for Super Smash Bros., a game series as beloved as it is technical. Players like Cordoni and his coach Robert “Bobby Siege” John have spent a lifetime cultivating their skills at a game whose Pikachu-faced branding belies a brutal form of high-speed digital chess. When it comes to motivation, there’s no difference between an SFAT and a Tom Brady—both are driven by the pure spirit of competition.
At tournaments like Genesis, pro-level players and unknown rookies all have an equal shot to win.
“It’s purely a self-taught meritocracy. Anyone could go pro as long as they practice,” says Siege.
Imagine going to the park to play a pick-up game of basketball and knowing there’s a 5% chance you’ll be paired up against Steph Curry. Intense rigor and discipline are necessary to be ready for whatever one may face.
SFAT, a top 5 Fox (of Star Fox notoriety) player, has been working with his coach for the better part of a decade. In 2015, a year before he was signed as a pro player, SFAT was hitting up Siege for tips on how to manage the mental load of competing, knowing that, eventually, he needed Siege on his team officially.
“In 2017, Zac flew me out to prove to CLG [esports organization Counter Logic Gaming] that I was a worthwhile investment,” Siege says. Together they won a major tournament.
Zac and Bobby now live together in NorCal, constantly tweaking a daily diet, exercise and mental hygiene routine. The results speak for themselves: today, SFAT is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s best Smash Bros players.
Siege says physical and mental preparation go hand in hand.
“What really is the difference between mind and body?” Siege asks. “Your brain is a huge calorie monster. Studies have been done on chess players; they burn upwards of 5,000 calories per day throughout the tournament.”
A typical event like Genesis will consist of two eight-hour days of sustained competition if the player is winning, and keeping the body tuned and in fighting shape is the priority.
“Have proper nutrition: you have a huge breakfast, brain-positive foods with healthy fats, things that can give you long-lasting energy,” Siege says.
The coach also constructs SFAT’s workout regimen, where the two work on strength and conditioning in a way that is visually identical to the competitors of any traditional sport: deadlifts, squats, pull ups—all the activities that make for great sports movie montage material.
At tournament, the matches with the highest stakes arrive only after hours and hours of stress and stimulation, so preventing burnout and maintaining focus are key. “The brain has a limited capacity for focus per day, so it’s important we have unfocused time so we reset and recover,” Siege says. “We do stretching, yoga, and meditation to reset the body and mind so we can focus on what’s in front of us.”
Adding to this gravity of this weekend’s event situation, Genesis is the hometown event for these NorCal locals. “Genesis has always been one of our favorite tournaments. It’s been in our backyard, and we’re big fans of the guys who run it.” says SFAT. “All the homies are going to be there. Every time there’s a Genesis there’s a chance to catch up with old friends, and we’re cheered for more than other tournaments.”
This sense of local ownership extends to the event organizers as well. Sheridan Zalewski, co-founder of the tournament, has been running events since 2006 in Norcal. “All of the original Genesis team is Bay Area—we love the Bay Area.” Things changed when the scope of Genesis grew in 2016 with Genesis 3, but Zalewski’s approach remains community driven.
“What’re the ways we want to feel when we come to large events? We don’t want to feel like we’re people run through an assembly line” Zalewsk saysi. “When you go over to a friend’s house, you’re hanging out outside, you’re doing all kinds of socialization, we try to think about the things that connect people to what locked them into the community.”
If all this prep comes up short, SFAT has one more element: his diet.
“Veganism improves Smash Bros performance,” he says, only half joking. “It just makes me feel better.
Genesis 8 Finals
San Jose Civic, San Jose